A client-friend (they're getting indistinguishable lately, and that's a good thing) that's launching a new company called me on the carpet for not running a simple Craigslist ad through a formal design review. They trotted out the old b-word in there too: brand.
I know I err on loosening up on this blog, and I don't advocate this level of informality for everyone, but lately I'm working with folks with products and services that provide the natural, the beautiful, the intimate and/or help you relax so that you're comfortable expressing yourself, comfortable in your own skin.
Ultimately branding, to me, is about congruity, perhaps harmony.
From mass media we learned to carefully craft a message and broadcast it out to entirely represent you. Yet today you don't only exist behind a masthead's story or when the cathode ray tube is switched on. When anyone can be a photojournalist with simply their cellphone, everything becomes the message. Everything you are being and doing speaks.
The act of blogging can make you full of yourself, or get over yourself. Anyhow, it gets hard to keep up a pretense, er, carefully crafted message, for three years believe me. I actually intended to start this blog to establish visibility as a thought-leader and to develop a platform for a book idea since agents want you to already be a brand when they sign you up with Random House.
Very humorous in retrospect.
I'm old enough to grow up with mass media - not MySpace, not even email. So maybe that's where I learned that I am my image and first impressions count. And that scripted, polished and third-person is ideal. If it's not going to be publishable in big media, don't bother even writing it.
But social media taught me that whatever I am is in constant flux and as updatable as hitting "Publish" or changing the last book read in my profile. That my opinions are malleable, and that the dynamics of open-ended conversation can inspire and influence me. And although I need not change at all, as I need not in any relationship, it is dangerous territory if you're trying to preserve any static, fixed image. And that real and human rather than polished is welcomed, desired, hungered for in this day and age.
A friend wrote yesterday: "Any person is a constraint as well as an enabling opportunity — to become bigger, or something else, to be questioned, to become dissembled or assembled." Well, then the relationships and interactions and engagement in social media have been my undoing. And my reassembly and undoing and... ad finitum.
One outcome is that perfection and professionalism have waned, and I've embraced beauty and passion instead:
"Kant is famous for believing that you must never break a promise, whatever the consequences. Beauty has no such compunctions. Like everything that beckons, beauty is risky and dangerous." - Alexander Nehamas (author of The Art of Living), "An Essay on Beauty and Judgment" (via Adrian Chan, thanks for passing along)
"When you become a tea-master, you also become a gardener. A famous tea-master once asked an apprentice to sweep the terrace in preparation for the ceremony. Conscientiously, the young Buddhist swept and swept and swept. Every leaf the tree had shed he swept away. Blistered and exhausted, he longed for his master to compliment him on a job well done. Instead, the teacher scolded him, instructing him that beauty is not perfection. Perfection is not obtainable. Leaves will continue to fall. A few random leaves are perfectly beautiful. Zen." - Alexandra Stoddard, "Tea Celebrations: The Way to Serenity"
"I want that pure sense of wonder, that kid-at-airshow-seeing-an-F16–on-afterburners-rip-by-so-close-it-makes-your-soul-shake reaction, that caress-the-new-Blackberry-until-your-friends-start-to-question-your-sanity experience. I want an irrational level of sheer, unfiltered, borderline delusional joy."
But "f***ing cool" is not a "business appropriate" phrase. It's unprofessional. So while we may want our customers to feel it, sure, we certainly can't have one of our employees saying it. Heavens no. According to some folks within Sun, anyway. It seems that the insightful tech blogger Tim Bray--who happens to be a Sun employee--used the words, "f***ing cool" (but without the asterisks) to describe Sun's Project Blackbox, and he took some interesting heat for it from both outside and inside the company."
"That is so old school/old media. Mike is a human being. It's up to the people behind startups to get to know him instead of paying some hack PR firm to send those [standard-template Dear blogger letters]...
Meet him...as a human being. Believe me, it's worth it."
images temple custodian in India sweeping by Stephen (Flickr)